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In introducing Noise before a packed AFI Dallas festival audience, writer/director Henry Bean first made this confession: He quite literally threw everything he could think of into the film, and exercised absolutely no restraint. As a result, he warns that it’s possible audiences may not think it all fits. He on the other hand thinks it does, and I’m inclined to agree with him. If you walk out of Noise believing it’s simply a movie about annoying sounds, then you’ll almost certainly be lost. If on the other hand you manage to pick up on some of the broader themes Noise touches on while following the simple story of a man who’s had it with irritating car alarms, then it all fits together.
Tim Robbins plays David Owen, a man fighting the good fight against noise. He’s driven batty by the inconsiderate and unnecessary sounds of modern living. Chief on his hit list of aural annoyances are car alarms, which as we all know are utterly useless, unless of course you’ve intentionally bought one to wake people up at four in the morning. They’re great at ruining your neighbors’ sleep, and not so good at stopping thieves. David feels it’s his duty to right this particular injustice, and after legal recourse fails him turns vigilante. He dubs himself “The Reclimater” and spends his nights vandalizing and disabling vehicles with annoying alarm systems.
Everyone hates those damn things, so there’s a certain amount of joy to be had in simply watching Robbins dish out old fashion vigilante justice on the cars of jerks with out of control noisemakers. But there’s more to Noise than Robbins and a pair of wire-cutters. Writer/director Henry Bean attempts to subtly tackle the larger issue of humanity’s tendency simply to put up with injustices through David’s noise reduction mission. People are sheep, and the larger question Bean asks is what would happen if we all stopped putting up with this stuff? Maybe things would change, for the better.
Or maybe things would go as badly for all of us as they do for David, as his late night reclamation wreaks havoc on his life, destroys his family, and lands him more than once in jail. David’s obsession is a fascinating one, with implications beyond the narrow world of noise he’s focused on. Unfortunately the movie doesn’t always stay focused on David and when it takes side trips into courtroom scenes or backroom political maneuvering among politicians it loses steam. Bean seems less sure of himself when he’s dealing with the forces arrayed against his main character, and whenever Robbins isn’t on screen Noise suffers. See it anyway. If not for the big questions, then watch it to see Tim Robbins shake his booty to the beat while bashing a car to bits with his baseball bat.